For Immediate Release: June 2, 2021
Sen. Loretta Weinberg issued the below statement in support of full funding for New Jersey Transit and an end to Clean Energy Fund raids. (The full statement can also be viewed here.) The full FY22 state budget must be finalized and approved by the end of this month.
Senate Majority Leader’s Weinberg’s statement reads: “NJ Transit has been a perennial budget issue thanks to the degradation of service suffered during the Christie Administration. Adequate funding is necessary to maintain service and to make much-needed capital improvements.
“I am concerned, though, that the Governor’s proposed budget includes a $273 million reduction in the state’s subsidy to NJ Transit, while leaving in place longstanding transfers from the Clean Energy Fund and NJ Transit’s capital budget.
“It makes no sense to reduce the state subsidy while leaving these diversions in place.. “NJ Transit’s capital plan is not fully funded, and hasn’t been for some time. This unpredictability keeps the agency from being all it can be and leaves pressing needs unaddressed. We should be using this opportunity to make needed improvements to our rail and bus service.”
The Governor’s budget for NJ Transit relies heavily on temporary federal aid. This year, more than $82 million would be diverted from the Clean Energy Fund in order to support NJ Transit’s operational budget, in addition to approximately $360 million from NJ Transit’s capital budget.
“For many years, we’ve had to rob Peter to pay Paul with NJ Transit.g. “Thanks to the federal aid, this year could be the first year we fully fund NJ Transit’s capital budget. I will be seeking to address this in the budget bill we send to the Governor’s desk.”
NJ Transit’s capital plan calls for improvements including new bus garages, rail improvements, light rail expansion, and bus electrification. Ending the capital diversions would allow NJ Transit to move faster on these much-needed projects.”
Jersey Renews, a broad-based coalition of more than 65 labor, environmental and community organizations, thanks Sen. Weinberg for her support on these key issues:
“Senate Majority Leader Weinberg has been the ultimate advocate for NJ Transit riders. The NJ Transit FY22 budget, even in this era of tremendous federal aid, is still leaving structural deficiencies embedded in its budget, like worn-out railroad ties. This is the moment for the Legislature and Governor Murphy to work together to strike a deal to provide dedicated funding for NJ Transit. Dedicated funding would provide a path to end the raids of NJ Transit’s capital budget and the Clean Energy Fund, finally create certainty for long-needed capital expansions including the transition to electric buses and most importantly, provide funding certainty for a transit agency that will take years to recover its full pre-pandemic passenger ridership. Investing in NJ Transit is investing in our communities and we are grateful that Majority Leader Weinberg is fighting for sustainable NJ Transit funding,” said Doug O’Malley, Director of Environment New Jersey.
“For decades, NJTRANSIT has been deprived of operating budget dollars, which has led to a raid of over $10 billion of capital funds to date. These transfers from the capital budget have stunted NJTRANSIT’S expansion and prohibited the agency from making significant improvements,” said Janna Chernetz, Deputy Director and Director of New Jersey Policy with Tri-State Transportation Campaign. “Halting this vicious cycle will allow NJTRANSIT to fulfill long-overdue investments, as identified in the 5-Year Capital Plan and 10-Year Strategic plan, and become a leader in the public transit realm. More capital investment means better service, affordable service, and jobs. There is an opportunity now to fix this and put NJTRANSIT on the right track to fiscal health.”
“32BJ welcomes Senator Weinberg’s commitment to advance a 2022 Budget that ensures NJ Transit has the funds it needs to move ahead with vital projects and upgrades,” said Kevin Brown, Vice-President and New Jersey State Director at SEIU Local 32BJ. “Working families in NJ Jersey need an accessible and modern transit system and there couldn’t be a better time than now to put people to work with these investments.”
“For too long, riders have dealt with buses that are overcrowded, consistently late, and polluting our air. NJ Transit needs more funding to continue operating an essential service and to purchase electric buses as soon as possible. Neighborhoods like mine deserve clean energy to reduce carbon emissions and have cleaner air,” said Tanisha Garner, Ironbound Super Neighborhood Council President. “It is critical that transit is properly funded to meet the needs of riders. NJ Transit needs dedicated funding for their operating budget and we need the Clean Energy Fund to create safe and healthy neighborhoods.”
“The budget is where New Jersey really shows what and who we choose to value and protect,” said Berenice Tompkins, Jersey Renews campaign organizer. “We can decide to put people to work making our communities greener and healthier, to pay them well, to ensure that our neighbors aren’t forced to choose between basic needs like electricity, heat and transportation. Thank you to Senator Weinberg for taking a stand in support of our climate, communities and workers. We hope to see other state decision-makers join her.”
“Both NJ Transit and the Clean Energy Fund are needed by New Jersey workers and communities more than ever this year,” said Debra Coyle McFadden, Executive Director of New Jersey Work Environment Council. “Those of us returning to work need a fully funded transit system to get there reliably and safely. In the wake of a pandemic that has left so many New Jerseyans unemployed, we need the training programs supported by the Clean Energy Fund to make sure that the new green industries coming to our state include and uplift everyone. There is no excuse to steal from one essential program to fund another, and we are grateful to Senator Weinberg for demonstrating that we do not have to choose.”
“Senate Majority Leader Weinberg is spot on,” said Amy Goldsmith, New Jersey State Director of Clean Water Action. “Transferring toll hike revenue to NJT while reducing the General Fund’s contribution to NJT and raiding Clean Energy Fund and NJTs capital budget is not only robbing Peter to pay Paul but just makes the Turnpike Authority a piggy bank for state operating expenses. The state’s budget is surprisingly flush yet NJT continues to be severely underfunded. The Legislature and Governor need to protect front line workers and public health, fight the climate crisis, and create jobs by fully funding NJT and can pay for it with state rainy day and surplus funds; federal recovery, stimulus and infrastructure funds; toll hike revenue currently slated for highway expansion; and/or additional progressive taxation.”
“NJ Transit used to be one of the leading public transportation agencies in the country. No longer,” said John Reichman, Chair, BlueWaveNJ Environment Committee. “One of the reasons for this is that NJT has been chronically underfunded. We need to reverse this now. Good public transportation is essential for a fair and robust recovery from the pandemic and economic and environmental justice. We need to eliminate the annual raids on NJT’s capital account, provide dedicated funding for NJT, and ensure that if any money is diverted from the Clean Energy Fund, it should only be used for clean energy projects such as bus electrification.”
“We strongly support Senator Weinberg’s call for fully funding the NJ Transit operating budget and stopping the raids on its capital budget and the Clean Energy Fund,” said Kevin Dougherty and Don Stern with Indivisible Highland Park and the Indivisible State Legislative Coalition. “We need this so that NJT can help us cut carbon emissions by electrifying its buses and expanding rail service to other areas of the state.”
“Budgets are moral documents,” said Rev. Ronald Tuff, New Jersey organizer with GreenFaith. “Establishing a dedicated funding source for NJ Transit and ending raids on the Clean Energy Fund are ethical no-brainers and we call on the state to do the right thing.”